The Government has recently announced that Tower Hamlets has been provisionally allocated £19.2m, the highest allocation in the country, as part of the New Homes Bonus allocations – the grant paid by central government to local councils to reflect housing growth and fund infrastructure.
Nearly £300,000 of this figure has been allocated as a result of the number of affordable homes built in Tower Hamlets, which was the second highest local authority area in terms of the number of affordable homes added, with 850 new homes.
Mayor of Tower Hamlets John Biggs has also allocated £332m funding for new council housing and temporary accommodation as part of the council’s capital programme. The figure includes £217m for new build housing and £115m for the purchase of properties for use as temporary accommodation.
The context of this investment is one of continuing Government cuts to council funding. Since the Conservative’s austerity programme started in 2010, the Tories have cut Tower Hamlets’ core funding by £148m a year – the equivalent of 64%.
Residents highlighted housing as one of the top areas that the council should prioritise, as part of the ‘Your Borough, Your Future’ budget consultation, and the Mayor has announced plans as part of his new budget proposals to meet resident priorities.
Mayor Biggs has also thanked council staff for their work which meant that no homeless families were accommodated in B&Bs over the Christmas period, who were instead placed in self-contained homes. Under the previous mayor many families were left in B&B accommodation for longer than the legal limit of six weeks.
Mayor of Tower Hamlets John Biggs said:
“Tower Hamlets tops the table again in terms of New Homes Bonus, people want to live here. We have built the second-highest number of affordable homes in the country and we will continue to focus on providing new and affordable homes, including an investment of over £332m for new council housing and temporary accommodation.
“Residents frequently tell us that building homes should be one of our top priorities and my new budget proposals focus on doing just that. Despite the severity of Government cuts to our council budget, we’re putting millions into providing much-needed new homes for people on our housing waiting list”.
Councillor Sirajul Islam, Deputy Mayor for Housing, said: “I was pleased to learn that our hard-working council staff ensured no homeless families stayed in B&B accommodation over the holiday period. Families were moved into self-contained accommodation over this period and I’m delighted they had their own place to call home in time to welcome the New Year.”
Councillor Rachel Blake, Deputy Mayor for Regeneration and Air Quality, said: “I’m delighted that we are in the top local authorities for new affordable homes and we continue to work in partnership with social landlords and developers to deliver these. We also have an ambitious programme to provide 2,000 new council homes to meet our manifesto commitment and we’re investing hundreds of millions to achieve it. This significant investment in housing will help many of our residents but the truth is that Tower Hamlets is on the front line of a housing crisis which the Tory Government is unable and unwilling to tackle, instead choosing to pile even more pressure through budget cuts on the very councils who are trying to tackle the crisis.”
Note: the New Homes Bonus is based on the amount of extra Council Tax revenue raised for new-build homes, conversions and long-term empty homes brought back into use. There is also an extra payment for providing affordable homes, of which Tower Hamlets will receive nearly £300,000.